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Last week, Brandon Elliott and four board members of Choral Arts Initiative attended Chorus America's 2017 National Conference, held in Los Angeles, California, where the ensemble was awarded the ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music.
The 2017 Chorus America National Conference was held in Los Angeles, June 21-24, where representatives from choirs across the country came to learn, share ideas, share music, and be recognized. Choral Arts Initiative was honored to be one of those to be nationally recognized by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) at the Chorus America Conference with the award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. Artistic Director Brandon Elliott received the award with CAI board members Jeffrey Derus, Rich Messenger, Evan Mooney, and Lorraine Joy Welling present. Special guests Krissy Evanilla and Lisa Murphy were also invited to join in our celebration.
Brandon Elliott was a presenter for a three-part seminar series he co-facilitated and helped develop called "The Choral Entrepreneur," offered as part of the Chorus America Conference. He also presented at the 2016 Chorus America Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, and will be presenting at their Conducting Academy in July held at California State University, Fullerton. Elliott was also selected as one of the 30 choral leaders from across the country to participate in the Choral Ecosystem Forum in April of 2016, which was a collaboration between Chorus America, the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Barbershop Harmony Society, and Yale University School of Music, where the Forum was held.
In addition to the honors Choral Arts Initiative received as a group, we were happy to see composers we have worked with and whose music we have performed, premiered, and commissioned, who were participants, presenters, and whose music was being performed at the conference. Christina Whitten Thomas joined us to watch the first concert of the conference on Wednesday evening, where Vox Femina performed her piece, "Kindness," a piece that was commissioned by the group this year. Dale Trumbore was in a composer's forum as part of the seminar offerings of the conference, and she also had a new piece, "Breathe in Hope," performed by the Los Angeles Children's Chorus at a conference concert held at St. John's Episcopal Cathedral. "Hope" had been commissioned and premiered by the LACC in May of this year and used the Facebook text of Maya Jackson on the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Dominick DiOrio, a member of CAI's Artistic Advisory Committee, was often seen as a master of ceremonies and facilitator of seminars throughout the conference, and we also crossed paths with Saunder Choi, who is one of our five featured composers in our upcoming concert, Seeking Light. Choral Artists Ashton Hackwith and Yngwie Zamarippa also came to join the week's festivities for Choir Night at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where Chorus America participants and members of local choirs had the opportunity to sing with composers Moira Smiley and Eric Whitacre prior to Los Angeles Master Chorale's concert that featured new music by these composers and the 20th Anniversary performance of Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna.
Choral Arts Initiative was proud to be honored with the national ASCAP award and that our Artistic Director, Board Members, Choral Artists, and composers we have collaborated with had the opportunity to participate in and be part of the 2017 Chorus America Conference. In the words of Brandon Elliott, "So much excellent and transformative work is happening in our country thanks to so many stellar choral organizations. Amidst the dangerous and divisive rhetoric we confront, music will always rise from the "noise." I can't wait to see what's ahead for us and for the choral profession. Onward!"
Buy tickets now to see and hear this award-winning ensemble present their next concert of "Adventurous Programming," Seeking Light, and help us celebrate our five year anniversary with a reception following the concert. Don't forget to like our page on Facebook to keep up with all our latest happenings, to see more photos from the 2017 Chorus America National Conference, and to see video of the ASCAP award presentation to Choral Arts Initiative at the Conference.
After collaborating with Choral Arts Initiative since the group's beginning, including the recent eight-movement secular requiem, How to Go On, and an entire album of her choral music by the same name, Dale Trumbore was an obvious choice as one of the five composers whose music would be part of the fifth anniversary celebration and concert, "Seeking Light." What was surprising was the fact that her inspiration for the piece being performed, Perhaps, ended up coming from Brandon Elliott himself, the Artistic Director of the group. The words were part of his program notes that were read as the introduction to a previous concert, "Such Things As Flowers" last spring. Even more surprising was that before Elliott approached Trumbore about the commission, she had already composed a piece as a gift. The piece was completed and presented to Elliott and the Choral Artists at the conclusion of the recording sessions for How to Go On. “Though Brandon's words weren't originally intended to be set to music, I thought they captured the essence of what Choral Arts Initiative does: 'Perhaps we may live an answer or illuminate a story.' This is why I love collaborating with Choral Arts Initiative, be it on a new piece, an old piece, or an entire album; this ensemble is committed to 'music that can teach and inspire,' and they sing it with such passion. I hope this anniversary is the first of many major milestones for Choral Arts Initiative!”
In our lifetime, we will undoubtedly have so many questions left unanswered.
So many stories will be left untold.
Perhaps we may live an answer or illuminate a story.
Perhaps we may not.
So we turn to the security of constancy as dependable as the sea,
nature full of beauty and peace,
music that can teach and inspire.
Perhaps all we can do is seek comfort
in such things as flowers, and song, and you.
Saunder Choi chose to approach the subject of seeking light "through the lens of darkness and strife." Originally, when Artistic Director Brandon Elliott approached the composer, it was the two year anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda, which was the most intense and deadliest tropical cyclone to ever to hit the Philippines, and the composer wanted to write something inspired by the tragedy akin to the Katrina Ballads by Ted Hearne. However, the focus went from his homeland to his current home when things changed here. "The decision on immigration and the travel bans shook me to my core. I am an immigrant and the developments truly terrified me. I decided to use this opportunity to ponder on migration and what it means to move. I asked my partner Mike to craft a poem about seeking light in a foreign land, and I Follow the Sparrow was the result of that." Together, they chose the subject of the migration of birds to address the subject of immigration, a subject that hits close to home for this immigrant from the Philippines.
Leave it to sparrows to migrate at night;
their crisp silhouettes cross the moon.
If warm winds arrive before afternoon,
The stars heed the birds with their light.
In the shade of their wings run the refugees
Afraid of their lords and the turbulent seas
To the warmth and the light, unbounded they run
To beat the oppression of land without sun.
Imagine denying the migrating birds.
Picture a shield in the sky.
It stifles the light
For the lies that we write
Still the brilliance of nature flies by.
- Michael Yarsky
When our Artistic Director, Brandon Elliott, approached the five composers who received commissions for our upcoming concert, Seeking Light, to celebrate our fifth anniversary season, he gave them only one word that would be the overarching theme of the concert: Light. For Luke Flynn, that light came in the form of his baby girl, Serena, who was about to be born when Flynn first received the commission, and her birth and impact on the lives of Luke and his wife informed and inspired this simple yet profoundly beautiful choral lullaby.
White moon comes in on a baby face.
The shafts across her bed are flimmering.
Out on the land White Moon shines,
Shines and glimmers against gnarled shadows,
All silver to slow twisted shadows
Falling across the long road that runs from the house.
Keep a little of your beauty
And some of your flimmering silver
For her by the window tonight
Where you come in, White Moon.
- from "Baby Face"
by Carl Sandburg
Lorraine Joy Welling